BOSTON—Through two games, it’s not the long ball that has helped the Oriole record two wins. It’s the small ball.
On Saturday, the Orioles had eight hits, seven singles, including a key two-run single by third baseman Maikel Franco in the fourth, and defeated the Boston Red Sox for the second straight time, 4-2, before 4,571 at Fenway Park.
Two other newcomers, starter Matt Harvey and reliever Adam Plutko, also delievered clutch performances. Plutko relieved Harvey with two outs in the fifth and worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing a hit and striking out two, for the win.
Dillon Tate worked an efficient 11-pitch eighth inning. César Valdez made things interesting in the ninth, allowing the first two batters to reach and missing the strike zone badly before he worked out of the jam to gain his second save in as many days.
Even though Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said before the game that he wanted to avoid using Valdez, he went back to his 36-year-old closer. As a result, the Orioles are 2-0 for the first time since 2017 when they began the season 4-0.
“It’s really satisfying to win really close, well-pitched ballgames,” Hyde said. “Being able to take advantage of opportunities, having good at-bats, up and down the order, good defense in important times. That’s how you win in this league. That’s how you win late in the year. That’s how you win in the postseason … For the most part we’ve done that for a couple of days.”
When the Orioles acquired Plutko a week ago, they envisioned him fulfilling a variety of roles. He has experience as a starter and a long man in relief.
“Today he filled the big spot where he got multiple outs in the middle part of the game,” Hyde said. “That was more than I expected.”
Plutko didn’t overanalyze the situation.
“I don’t really think it’s really deep,” he said. “You go out there, you get outs. You string a lot of them together, you’ll be successful. If you don’t, you won’t.”
Plutko displayed a playful sense of humor in his first meeting with the Baltimore media.
“To get two wins right out of the bat, we’re going to go 162-0, obviously, and keep it rolling,” he joked.
Franco’s two-run single in the fourth, rightfielder Anthony Santander’s run-scoring infield single in the fifth and a sacrifice fly by first baseman Trey Mancini in the seventh accounted for the Orioles’ runs.
Catcher Pedro Severino had the only extra-base hit, a leadoff double in the fifth. Severino, who scored on Santander’s infield hit, had his second consecutive two-hit day.
Harvey is solid: In his first game with the Orioles, Harvey allowed two runs on four hits in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out four and walked one and threw 86 pitches.
“It was all right,” Harvey said. “Getting into a couple of jams and then being able to get out of it, especially early in the game, that was huge for us to get to the point where we did and win the game eventually. I’m kicking myself to not get out of the fifth.”
The Orioles led, 3-1, and with two outs and two on. J.D. Martinez lined a ball off Harvey’s thigh, which landed between Mancini and second baseman Rio Ruiz and scored Kevin Plawecki with the second run. Hyde lifted Harvey at that point.
“I’ve been hit a few times,” he said. “It’s nice putting the extra work in during the offseason on the legs … It’s nothing. I should have gotten my glove in front of it. I think in my older age (32), my reaction time is getting a little slow.”
Harvey’s next start is scheduled for the home opener on Thursday, also against the Red Sox.
“Overall, I think it was a solid first start and just try build off of that for next time,” Harvey said. “Any time you win the first series of the year, it’s big. We’ve got some good momentum now. Obviously, it’s only two games, but coming here with a good ballclub, you’ve got to play well, and guys pitched great after me.”
Ruiz back at 2nd: Rio Ruiz had an uneventful second day at second base after making three outstanding plays on Friday. He had four routine chances, and none at third, where he again moved for the ninth inning.
Ruiz said it wasn’t difficult to answer Hyde when he broached a change in positions from third to second after the Orioles acquired Franco.
“It was a quick yes. I didn’t want to let him finish his question,” Ruiz said.
There is an adjustment at second.
“The angles and how much time you have,” Ruiz said. “Third base is all reaction. Second base, you still have to react, and you have to cover more ground, but you have more room to work with.”
Odds and ends: DJ Stewart, who’s on the 10-day injured list because of a strained left hamstring is getting close to being able to play, according to Hyde … Severino is the third Oriole catcher to begin the season with consecutive multi-hit games. Francisco Peña, in 2016, was the most recent … No home runs have been hit in the first two games by either team. Hyde said that in warmer weather, there would have been a few balls hit out. “The weather here is cold, and the ball’s not traveling like normally in the summer,” he said.